July 3, 2024

The Labor Movement in 2024 and Beyond

Julian Lattimore

The American Labor Movement has seen a recent resurgence leading to workers holding more power than previously seen in decades and highlighted by major headline strikes and contract wins across sectors. Most notably amongst autoworkers with the reform movement, resurgence, and strike of UAW and the Hollywood strikes in 2023. The growth of the movement has led to increased political attention on the fights and unionization efforts of workers by both major American political parties vying for reciprocal attention and endorsements. The power of the American labor movement in building and driving working-class politics is integral with the left’s organizing goals and building a more just society. RLS-NYC has covered the developments and wins of the American labor movement while working with our partners to organize new collectives and initiatives that help contribute towards these wins on a grassroots level.

In February, RLS-NYC worked with the UCLA Labor Center to bring together 80+ labor organizers and workers from the United States, Mexico, and Canada together in Los Angeles for “Worker Solidarity in Action: A Tri-national Labor Response to the USMCA”. Throughout the weekend, an international labor dialogue and workshop took place to discuss the interlinked challenges faced by workers in all 3 countries linked geographically and politically. The US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA or T-MEC in Spanish) is a free trade agreement between the 3 countries replacing the previous agreement “NAFTA” or the North American Free Trade Agreement. The modern trade agreement further intertwines workers in historically newer sectors like the gig economy. New sectors provide new opportunities for worker power like the impacts of striking on app-based firms. Traditional trade unions were also present and the weekend of international worker solidarity ended with the County Federation of Labor pledging to create a solidarity fund of $10,000 in support of striking Audi workers in Puebla, Mexico.

The organizing and wins by automakers have received much of the headlines and attention from political circles. At the end of April, Democratic President Joe Biden released a 4-sentence statement to “Applaud the UAW and Daimler (Mercedes-Benz Group AG headquartered in Stuttgart, Baden-Württemberg) for reaching a tentative agreement for a record contract.” A historically rare foray for a sitting president to weigh in on the negotiations between a major auto manufacturer and a union, speaking to the increased importance of the labor movement culturally and politically. The specific wins for the 7,300 workers under the contract included raises of 25%+ and profit sharing and cost-of-living-adjustments (COLA). UAW President, Shawn Fain took a more inspirational tone in his statement: “Daimler Truck workers just showed the world that Southern workers have the power to Stand Up and win big in heavy truck and beyond,” speaking to the dormant power of this historically less unionized region of the United States. This was during the same month that UAW announced its first successful organizing drive of an automaker outside of the traditional Big Three in Detroit Michigan (Ford, GM, and Stellantis) when workers in Chattanooga, Tennessee chose to unionize in a landslide vote.

RLS has supported these grassroots organizing efforts since 2019, at the very basic level, working with partners like Organizing for Power to equip participants (workers, tenant organizers, etc.) with the skills needed for fighting and winning power through the building of supermajorities through the core fundamentals course. RLS also supports American and Canadian workers to network and attend workshops and conferences with international and more specifically, Trans-Atlantic dialogue at the core of the office’s mandate. Last summer, this included sending workers to “Gemeinsam in Die Offensive” at Ruhr-Universität Bochum in conjunction with Gewerkschaft Nahrung-Genuss-Gaststätten (NGG) and will include AWI workers going to meet with their international counterparts this summer. RLS’s multifaceted approach to highlighting and providing analysis into the major wins, developing new autonomous networks of unions and organizers on an international scale, and helping to spread the organizing seeds of new grassroots unionization efforts of all sizes speaks to the North American labor movement’s critical importance. The fight for global solidarity and a more just world cannot take place without the support of the working class whose unbreakable spirit is exemplified in the current resurgence of this Labor movement.

Julian Lattimore is a project manager at RLS–NYC focusing on labor, racial justice and housing rights.

Top photo: AP Photo/Paul Sancya